Where to from here?

For the first time this year I am feeling motivated and excited about training. After months dreading the prospect of racing, completing the Outlaw has revived my enthusiasm. I have been training, but it was obvious I lacked direction or structure; I got fit because it’s what I do. Where I put in effort it worked, the problem was my limited focus. I brushed aside this casual approach as ‘thinking long-term’, next year I’ll be better.

Motivation means I no longer need to make excuses and long-term is no excuse for doing nothing. Saying I’ll work on swimming over the winter is not a reason to stop swimming in the summer; if I can’t commit now, it’s naive expecting to at the end of the year. I may not be able to run much yet, but the important word is yet. Until now I’ve placed the emphasis on how little I’m running and not upon the progress I need to make. I may not be able to run much, yet.

Following every Ironman is a period of contemplation, my mind compensates for the body’s inactivity. There are the obvious thoughts – reviewing my training, questioning my race strategy and looking for where seconds could be gained. Those questions are easy to answer, but the broader picture is a challenge. What did this single race suggest about my long term goals?

Next year is my Ironman season. I’ve entered three races with the explicit intention of performing well and qualifying for a fourth in October. As important as Kona is to me, the bigger goal is finally breaking the nine hour mark I’ve talked about for years. These aren’t easy targets – the qualification process is increasingly competitive, but if I’m capable of sub-9 in Roth, I’m capable of qualifying elsewhere.

During two years focussed on training I succeeded in the qualification goal, but didn’t break nine hours. Now I’ve a successful coaching business I lack the freedom; if anything circumstances are more challenging. But I train differently, smarter perhaps – fewer hours delivering better results. The challenge is logistical, organisation is the key and unfortunately my achilles heel. How to train is easy, how to fit that around the rest of my life is hard. Welcome to the real world!

If I make the commitment, put in the training time required, I believe the goals are achievable. Signing up for races and declaring 2012 my Ironman season were easy steps, I need to back them up. I can’t afford to hibernate this year; it will take a winter of work and also a good summer of training. I’m planning to put work into swim and run during the off season, but to do that I need to get back into them now. My immediate choices matter.

Forty-seven days to Challenge Henley, a local event I’d like to perform well in. Realistically there is little room to improve my running – progression from minimal training back to normal volumes is necessarily slow. The immediate goal is to be capable of running more of the marathon, not relegated to walking to a slow finish. Running fast will wait for next season, each race is a stepping stone back. The same applies with swimming – I may not be fast in Henley, but I can be better prepared.

A late season end in Vegas for ITU Long Distance Worlds leads me to hope of finishing the year strongly, perhaps salvaging something. It’s optimism, the focus will have to remain on building running and swimming to levels that ensure I respectably complete those stages. Meanwhile, knowing there are limits to how much I can train in each and that progression needs to be gradual, I’ll continue to place the majority of my effort into cycling.

The Outlaw gave a good indication that I am getting stronger on the bike, equally it left me wanting more. I still have the time and energy available to emphasise cycling in my plans and it seems logical to continue progressing there before weather hampers my training. It wasn’t the original plan, but if this year makes me a sub-9 cyclist and next year rounds out the package in swim and run, it works.

It’s good to talk about training and my goals and for it to have meaning again. I feared racing for so long, but actually getting out and testing myself was the kick into action I needed. There’s a season to salvage and then some challenges to be faced.